Volkswagen to Enter Sensor-driven Passat

by : Rain Stockton

The 2007 Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban
Challenge, one of the most unique car races in the world, will take place on November 3. Several teams will allow their "smart" vehicles to enter on a course covering 60 miles of unknown territory and designed to vitalize urban driving conditions.

Each team's aim is to post the fastest time while, of course, observing traffic regulations. The race requires participating vehicles to mingle into traffic, cross roundabouts and negotiate busy intersections. All cars are steered and driven by computers.

In the race, Volkswagen will enter its customized Passat backed with performance quality and built by Volkswagen's research department and its California-based Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) with the assistance of Stanford University.

Named in commemoration to Stanford University founder Leland Stanford Jnr., the Passat "Junior" is equipped with electromechanical power steering, an electric accelerator pedal, a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) and an electric handbrake. And to make the vehicle 100 percent computer-controlled, Volkswagen of America's Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) modified these electric systems and the brakes. Further equipment designed and built by the ERL includes the Custom-made mountings for the array of sophisticated sensors. Intel Core 2 Duo processors with two multiple-processing units per chip are some of the compositions of the vehicle's "brain". All these with the software developed at Stanford University's Artificial
Intelligence Laboratory, the vehicle will be genuinely independent.

Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, head of Volkswagen's Electronic Research Laboratory, said that Volkswagen is excited to join the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge after its victory at the last DARPA Grand Challenge. He said that they see an opportunity to further advance intelligent technologies for the future use in the next generation passenger vehicles. He explained that the features developed for the Urban Challenge will ultimately result to driving safety and more fun in today's increasingly congested traffic. He continued that they have the perfect car for the said challenge, just like their Touareg 'Stanley' in its 2005 Grand Challenge triumph.

With 'Stanley' as the name, VW's Touareg TDI won the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005. Stanley bested among 22 other unmanned vehicles with its onboard sensors and navigation features. The 2005 race was a demanding 132-mile championship taking in rough desert roads, mountain passes, dried-up lakes and tunnels. And without a single glitch, Stanley completed the race with a winning time of six hours and 54 minutes.

The Electronic Research Laboratory

Founded in 1998, Volkswagen of America's Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) is focusing its work on providing customers with smarter vehicles for the future. Based in Palo Alto, California, its work involves identifying new technologies and accelerating their development for future vehicle production.


DARPA or Defense Advance Research Projects Agency is an organization of the United States Department of Defense.